Quick and Dirty Response: I do, and I'm sure others do too, but I don't think people really understand what it means for a hobby to go mainstream.Read More
Oh Seafall. I picked you up on discount, not really expecting a lot. Everyone else had already downplayed this game, but I figured for $20-30, how bad could it be? For those of you who aren't aware, Seafall was a 2016 Age of sail/Nautical themed Legacy game (a type of game where one game can drastically change the next time you play the game) released by Plaid Hat Games. It was highly anticipated at the time as it was the first legacy game that wasn't based on another game like Risk Legacy or Pandemic Legacy, however that anticipation didn't last very long. For me, I did get my money's worth out of this game, but I might need therapy after playing this game. It made me experience just about every emotion out there, to the point where I can't continue this conversation without throwing up a huge SPOILER WARNING!Read More
You probably don't know this about me, but I LOVE card games. The fact that last year two of the games in my Top 10 of all time had the words "the Card Game" in them probably didn't give that away at all. CCG/TCG/LCG/LOL/BBQ I've tried a lot of them. So from the moment that I heard about Millennium Blades, a game from Level 99 Games where you simulate playing a CCG, I was intrigued.Read More
I gotta be honest with all of y’all. The past year or so I’ve put a lot of focus on making the Boards & Swords podcast the best that it can be. That has had the unfortunate side-effect of not putting enough time and energy on The Dirtbags of Holding podcast. Plus, we’ve had a lot of us moving/traveling/working/etc, so it made it hard to get the multi-session games scheduled. Well, that’s all changing. Now its time to put that same energy into making The Dirtbags of Holding an awesome podcast, and I think we’ve got the plan to do so.Read More
I originally started this website with the name Obsessive Comics Disorder because 1) I was really into comic books at the time and 2) I’ve dealt with mild OCD all my life and it felt like a positive way to channel that stigma.Read More
If you know where to listen, you might hear some weird murmurs in the board game media space. "2018 wasn't a good year for board games," one might say. "Too many half baked ideas, not enough development," says another. Not everyone feels this way, but I hear enough whispers about it that it got me wondering if this was actually the case.Read More
Once again, I'm expanding on a twitter rant I had a couple of weeks ago. This time, it was spawned because of various facebook posts I've seen over the past couple of weeks in regards to Keyforge. If I were to summarize these posts, it would sound something like: OMG WHY IS KEYFORGE SO POPULAR? IT'S A DUMB CARD GAME AND A WAY FOR FFG TO MAKE MONEY CALLING IT A UNIQUE GAME WHEN ITS ACTUALLY JUST A CCG WITH A NEW COAT OF PAINT!Read More
Are you familiar with the Spoon Theory? I've linked to wikipedia for some quick info, but there's a lot more in depth stuff available to read on. Also, I'm not an expert, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Basically, the idea behind the Spoon Theory is that people only have a certain number of "Spoons" in a day, representing the amount of energy you have to conduct activities. For those with disabilities or mental illnesses, some tasks require more "spoons" than they would for another person, especially activities that require interacting with other people.Read More
Recently, CMON issued its Third Quarter Earnings report, in which they described a revenue loss of about $4.1 million. This has caused the "BGG elite", as I've come to know them, to go crazy and saying that the end times are coming for the board gaming industry. Is anyone else sick and tired of hearing about this? One company does not represent the whole of the board gaming industry. In fact, my position is that the CMON loss has less to do with industry trends and more to do with the fact that they just didn't have that many interesting kickstarters this year. I went on a twitter rant about it a few days ago, but I thought I'd dig into the numbers a bit more to explain myself.Read More
By Chris Nickell
Editor’s Note: Chris is on the Dirtbags of Holding podcast, and has been playing RPGs (and running them as a GM) for years. I recently got a bunch of RPGs to review from Free League Publishing and asked Chris to help me out.
“The Red Plague hits a world already on the brink of collapse. Extreme climate change, global economic crisis, increasing conflict between old and new superpowers. When the pandemic comes, the last thin veneer of stability crumbles. … Yet life remains. Slivers of humanity survive the Apocalypse. In the Ark, a small settlement at the edge of a dead city, the People live. You are a spawn of humanity, but not quite human. You are twisted funhouse images, mutated freaks. Your bodies and minds have incredible powers, but you are unstable. … But the safe days are over. Food is running scarce, and the fight for what’s left is turning violent. “
The post-apocalyptic genre in gaming is one that I hold close to my heart. As a GM I love presenting my character players with their own version of the Kobayashi Maru (no-win scenarios) and watch as they debate the best course of action and roleplay through difficult decisions. Occasionally, I get a Kirk in the party that finds a way to cheat the system and pull a win out of a no-win scenario. Those situations make gaming history in our group and are truly the apex of our collective storytelling.Read More
I'm trying something new here. Got a question about board games, roleplaying games, comics or pop culture? Send me an email Chris@ocdcast.com or tweet me @ChrisTheProf on twitter with the #asktheprof hashtag and I may answer it in a future column.
Brandon from the Brawling Brothers podcast (@BrawlingBros) asked:
"How do you loosen up the 'stiffs' at the table and have them fall into character?!?"
First of all, calling them stiffs is probably not helping your cause. Secondly, I totally know where Brandon is coming from. One of the first games I ran as a GM was the Star Wars Saga Edition RPG from Wizards of the Coast (basically D&D 3.5 but with Star Wars). I was trying to get a new group of friends into RPGs and as such pretty much everyone in my game had never played in a RPG before. A couple of players got into it, but there was one or two people that basically acted like we were playing Zork:Read More
By Judith Moore
When a friend (Editors note: MEEEE!) gave me the chance to try a new variant on Munchkin, I jumped at the chance. Munchkin original flavor is already a favorite in my household; the adults have read Shakespeare; what was there to lose? I was slightly concerned that the references would be too obscure for my kids to enjoy, but that concern was soon laid to rest --buried AND praised, if you will.
This was our first Deluxe game, and having tokens and a board to manage levels makes it easier on the small fry. The character tokens and cards are whimsically illustrated, in keeping with any good Munchkin game. All good and well so far, but what of the cards? The battles!? The monsters!? The LOOT!? After my husband and I finished laughing ourselves silly, we had to explain the best jokes to the kids. While the implications of the Cuckold Horns went right over their heads, the Monolog and Dialog were instant favorites (yes, they are actual logs…) and the monsters needed very little explanation.
We were able to jump right in to gameplay! The pacing of Munchkin: Shakespeare is very different than that of the first game. There are far more opportunities for multi-level advancement, and catastrophic level-losing slapdowns, than in the first game. There are also more opportunities to meddle with other players, to the great glee of all involved. The new Bard class, in particular, leads to some great shenanigans when paired with suitable dice rolls! After only one game, we were hooked. We could not stop playing until we’d seen all the cards!
By the end of the first session, Munchkin Shakespeare had taken its place as our favorite Munchkin variant to date. It also has inspired a desire in my oldest (8) to read Shakespeare! Is this game a comedy? Is it a tragedy? The answer is yes, it is all these and more, but above all, it is FUN.
(Images from worldofmunchkin.com)
It's been a heck of a year. People moan about 2016 for various reasons, but instead of looking back at any negatives of the year, here are the things that I enjoyed out of 2016. Instead of posting several different lists for movies, tv shows, board games, etc, I decided to just combine them all together! Let me clarify - some of these items have been around for awhile, but 2016 was the year I was introduced to them. And for me, whenever the year would get me down in one way or another, it was these 10 things (among others) that would lift my spirits.
10. Star Wars Roleplaying Game
Although Rogue One was a close contender for this list, I'll kick off this list with the Star Wars Roleplaying Game from Fantasy Flight Games. At this point, I have 4 different versions of a Star Wars RPG on my shelf, but the FFG version is by far my favorite. I had run Edge of the Empire in a previous year, so putting it on this list might be cheating, but this year was the year that I actually got to fully explore the game. Previously, I didn't understand completely how the system worked and was figuring out pieces of the game on the fly. This year, not only did I get the chance to figure out how the game was played (more on that in a bit), but I sat down with my friends and recorded an excellent campaign for The Dirtbags of Holding podcast. If you haven't heard that series please go listen now! Of the campaigns we have done so far, it has to be my favorite. The pilot I came up with, Scratch, has to be the most fun character I have ever role played, and I know for a fact I'll be dusting off that character sheet at some point in the future. If you've ever wanted to explore the Star Wars universe, even if you've never played a roleplaying game before, this game is worth taking for a spin.
9. The Campaign Podcast
How did I learn to play the Star Wars RPG? Well, 2 of my fellow Dirtbags, Cory and Jimmy, introduced me this year to a podcast called Campaign. The Campaign Podcast on the One Shot Network is an actual play podcast that features Kat Kuhl as game master along with a cast of awesome characters playing through FFG's Star Wars game. It has action, comedy, drama, and a crap ton of Star Wars. Once I gave this podcast a try, I quickly burned through the 70+ episode backlog in order to get caught up with the story. If you want to get a feel for how good (or bad) this system could be used, then you need to give this podcast a shout.
This year was also the year I figured out what the heck this Numenera game that I kept hearing about was. Starting out as a Kickstarter in 2013 that raised over half a million dollars, Numenera is a science fantasy Role Playing Game that takes place in a billion years into the future. Eight great civilizations have come and gone on Earth, and now you play as characters in the Ninth World, exploring the world and finding remnants of the previous civilizations. The line between technology and magic is very thin in this game, as players get "Cyphers" - one use bits of technology (called Numenera in the setting) that can do all sorts of mysterious things. This game, and the Cypher System that powers it, intrigues me so much. It revolves around letting the GM easily make adventures and stories, while not being completely light on mechanics like other narrative focused games. In fact, Monte Cook Games, the company that produces Numenera, touts that you can use the Cypher System to create adventures right on spot. Here's an example of one of these instant adventures, hosted by the company at Gen Con this year (see if you can hear me in the audience shouting suggestions!).
If you had told me at Gen Con that the board game Scythe by Stonemaier Games would end up on my Top list of 2016, I never would have believed you. Scythe is a resource management/area control game set in an alternate World War I era….with giant mechs. Yeah, sounds like it would be right up my alley right? However, when I gave this game a try at Gen Con, it seemed very complicated and too complex for me. Fast forward a few months, and I decided to pick up a retail copy of the game at a nearby store. Since I had played with the Kickstarter version, I *had* to of course pick up the metal coins and realistic tokens. Then, the game seemed complex to set up so I *really* needed to get The Broken Token insert. Makes total sense….. By this point I had gotten a few plays in of the game and was completely sold in. The components, the artwork, the strategy, all of it just hits me right in the sweet spot. I even took it home for Christmas and taught my dad how to play - and he normally is not much for very complicated games. Yet we played the game multiple times together over the break - and had a blast doing it! This is a game I can't wait to take out again, and I feel that purchasing the expansion for the game is in my near future.
6. Legends of Tomorrow
I love the DC Comics TV shows that are on the CW network. So when I heard about "Legends of Tomorrow", a show where some of the characters spun off from previous shows "The Flash" and "Arrow" time travel to stop a massive plot, I was sold. Featuring characters such as Captain Cold, Firestorm, The Atom, and Rip Hunter, the first season of the show had its problems but was still enjoyable to watch. If that was all that I had seen, however, it would not have been enough to end up on this list. Luckily, the first half of the second season has come out, and has made this show a part of my "must watch" TV each week. Now, I can not stand to be behind in this show, for they have taken out what didn't work in the first season and cranked up what did work to 11. Not to mention, the huge crossover episode "Heroes vs. Aliens" between Supergirl/The Flash/Arrow/Legions of Tomorrow put together is easily the best live action work that DC has put out in years (sorry Batman v. Superman, but you had some serious problems). With drawing in at least 3.3 million viewers each night, I'm probably not the only one who felt this way.
5. Ice Cool
This game completely caught me by surprise. Ice Cool, by Brain Games, is a dexterity game where you flick penguins around a school trying to score fish before the hall monitor hits you. The penguins are weighted like "weeble-wobbles" so that they are always wobbling around and can result in some special trick shot maneuvers. Here is a play through of the game, if you want to see the game at work. It is such a simple game that was sold to me as a kid's game but I've had more fun playing this with adults than I have kids. You can get some really ridiculous shots in some times, which makes the game more than a straight skill game. One randomly good move can get you caught up, and is hilarious to watch someone try and repeat the same shot. This game is a ton of fun that you can play with all of your friends and family, so I encourage you to give it a try.
Anyone who truly knows me will not be surprised to find a Blizzard video game on this list. Overwatch is the company's latest game, a team based first person shooter that plays a lot like Team Fortress 2. Players take on different roles and try and score objectives instead of a traditional "deathmatch" style game. These traits that make the game different from classical shooters like Call of Duty are exactly why the game appeals to me so much. In this game, I don't have to be the best crack shot, as I can help my team by shielding them from damage or healing them instead. There's a whole layer of strategy that you don't get in other games. Not only that, but Blizzard puts their heart and soul into everything that they do, which means that you get a game with all different kind of characters. Each character has a detailed backstory that builds to the overall lore of the game. Playing this game with my friends has become a big thrill for me over the past few months.
3. Pokémon Trading Card Game
For a reason you will find out soon enough, I have gotten really back into Pokémon this year. Like, in a big way. I've been playing through different versions of the video games, buying up related shirts, artwork, etc. However, the biggest way I've been "catching them all" is through the Pokémon TCG. All of us here at the Renshaw house have jumped on the bandwagon of the game, at the right time it seems as Pokémon celebrated it's 20th anniversary last year. All through the year, The Pokémon Company did several events to get people back to that 90s nostalgia, including releasing a set featuring artwork from the original version of the game. Suffice to say, every time we go to the store now, we are picking up booster packs of the card game and enjoy opening them to see what we've "caught". We don't get to play the game too much but we still have plenty of fun collecting the cards together.
2. Pokémon Go
I've been an off and on Pokémon fan since the 90s, but what sparked this most recent bout of Poke-mania? Oh, you know, just a tiny mobile game called Pokémon Go. Taking the world of Pokémon and fusing it with our own, Pokémon Go was an unstoppable force during the summer. Oh, and Pokémon Go is still a thing, despite what some would lead you to think. From a peak of 40 million players, less than 15 million people still play the game as of October 2016. That's still more people than the population of Illinois! My wife, daughter, and I all play Pokémon Go, and we love going out to places and walking (or driving in this colder weather) around catching various Pokémon. Ashley and I will have dates where we go out and just sit around at a popular place for Pokémon and catch as many as we can together. People scoff when they hear that I've actually spent money in the game for items and such, but spending $5-10 for an hour or more of entertainment together is a pretty cheap date, in my opinion.
If you are reading this blog, chances are you've already seen Deadpool, the movie about the violent and vulgar Marvel comic mercenary . You might know how great it is. Why do I think it is better than everything else on this list? Typically, when I enjoy a movie a movie in the theater, I can't wait to purchase it on DVD/Bluray/iTunes. If I really like a movie, I'll even rewatch it a couple of times after it releases. I've probably watched Deadpool over 10 times by the this point, and it hasn't even been a whole year since its theatrical release. This movie is perfect for me in so many ways - the superhero genre, the humor, and the way it doesn't take itself serious at all. Every time that I watch the movie, I laugh at the same parts. It never gets old! Granted, this is not a family movie, nor even a movie I would ever think about showing Chloe. Still, the enjoyment I have gotten from this movie definitely solidifies its place here on the top of my list.
What About 2017?
Now that we've talked about last year, let's look ahead and briefly see a couple of things that I'm looking forward to this year.
(Movies) Superheroes. More superheroes. And did I mention superheroes? There's a lot of comic book based movies coming out this year that I am really looking forward to. I don't even have to wait very long, as The LEGO Batman Movie (probably the one I want to see the most) comes out February 10th. On the opposite side of the year, we get to see if Batman v. Superman will redeem itself as Justice League opens in November. Inside of those layers of DC bread, we have lots of Marvel goodness that will be drawing people into the theaters. Between Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Logan, Some are predicting that Marvel will rake in over 3 BILLION dollars. That's a lot of dough - I hope the movies turn out to be good!
(TV Shows) DC is already killing it with all of their CW shows, but in addition to more episodes of my favorites, the show I'm really intrigued about is DC's latest attempt. Powerless is a new comedy debuting on NBC that features goofy scientists making all the high tech gadgets that the world needs when superheroes fighting supervillains is an everyday occurrence. I thought the idea of a comedy in the DC universe was a weird idea, until I saw the promo. The show reminds me a lot of another show I enjoyed, Better Off Ted. If it can be even half as good as that show, and with the talent that is behind the show, it may turn out to be a real winner.
(Games) This year, I'll have many Role Playing Games that I'll be trying out for The Dirtbags of Holding podcast, but I think the one new game that I'm the most curious about is Starfinder by Paizo. Taking the Pathfinder ruleset and throwing it into science fiction, Starfinder releases during Gen Con this year. If you want more information about this game, I did an interview with James Sutter, the Creative Director behind the game. Paizo has a radical fanbase and I'm sure the game will sell very well, but the real reason I'm curious about the game is that Paizo has a great staff of creators who weave together awesome adventures and gameplay. Thus, Starfinder is bound to be a very interesting RPG experience.
So there you have it. What tickled my fancy in 2016 and what I'm anxiously awaiting in 2017. What about you? What did you enjoy last year, and what are you looking forward to this year?
I've been a fan of Role Playing Games (RPGs) for an extremely long time. At this point, it has to be over 15 years. In that time, I've played lots of games. While I enjoy many of them, one of the things you need to know about me is that I always have a constant drive to create new things. Sometimes, I get ideas that don't work within any of the games that I know. For instance, there have been many times that my D&D group wants to get together and play, but our DM cannot make it for some reason. Without them, it is really hard to continue our current campaign.
The last time this happened, I had an idea: what if we had a short game, designed around simple adventures, that we could play on those days when the entire group cannot continue our normal story? A game that would be all about silly fun, and it wouldn't matter how ridiculous it was because you wouldn't be worried about any long lasting continuity. So I decided to create that game. Over a weekend, I wrote up a framework of some ideas for a very light game - extremely light, as the original framework only took up about 4 pages. Then, it just so happened that my group had another regularly scheduled game that couldn't be held. A perfect opportunity to test out my new idea!
I ran a short game for my group that night, and they provided me with lots of feedback. Incorporating some of their thoughts, I reworked a lot of the mechanics and ran another game - this time with half of the Dirtbags of Holding folks. We actually recorded this short game as well, so look forward to hearing that adventure after our Fate campaign wraps up. This game was very inspiring, as I ended up making even more changes while we were playing.
Now, I'm ready to open up to everyone else about this, because I need your help! I've taken all of these experiences and drafted up the first version of the rules for this new game, which I'm calling "We've Run Out of Ideas", or WROI. The premise behind the game is that you are Actors within a big budget time travel movie. The writers, however, have gone on strike - to which the studio decided to just fire them all! So now, you are in charge of coming up with the movie's plot. You and the other players will create characters, discover the quest that your characters are on, and take turns playing through the storyline. You don't even need a GM to play! All you need is the rules and some six sided dice.
The idea behind the game is to be an easy and quick game to pick up and play. The test games that I have done have gone about an hour or so. However, this is the first game I've ever tried to design, and probably one of the biggest projects I've ever worked on. So, I need people to help me out and download the rules and play it with their friends! Let me know what works and what doesn't work. The more feedback I get, the better the final product will be!
If you are interested, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, hit me up on twitter @ChrisTheProf. I'm using an app called Slack to talk with playtesters and distribute new versions of the rules. If you contact me, I'll send you a link to join the Slack and read up on the rules I've written.
I had the "Privilege" seeing the Poltergeist remake this weekend. As a general rule, I hate horror movies and do everything in my power to avoid them. However, my wife ADORES them, although I'm not sure which she enjoys more: watching the movie or watching ME watch the movie. Regardless, the original Poltergeist was one of her favorites growing up, so as soon as I heard that there was a remake, I knew that I was doomed to see it. Having now seen it, I have some thoughts, which I will now share with you, relatively spoiler free.Read More
Wow, what an episode! Are we sure there is a Season 4 of Arrow? If not, this could have worked as the Series Finale, and it would have been one that I would have been completely okay with.
Spoilers Ahead...Read More
I've been wanting to write up recaps of my favorite TV shows for awhile now. Now might be the worst time, as they all are ending their seasons, but better late than never! Today, I'll be talking about the latest episode of The Flash, "Rogue Air".
Spoilers Ahead.Read More
Last week, we closed out the first half of the season for the brand new show Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. As a big fan of the all the Marvel movies we've been exposed to recently, I've watched the show from the beginning with keen interest. How has it fared so far? What am I looking forward to in the second half of the season? Read on to find out.
A Great Premise
I watched the pilot episode of SHIELD and walked away very excited. In the episode, we were reintroduced to Agent Phil Coulson, the SHIELD agent we first met in Iron Man and last saw (supposedly) dying at the hands of Loki in the Avengers. We are introduced to a group of people (mostly SHIELD agents) that Coulson has gathered to react to new threats/elements in this Post-Avengers Marvel Universe. This premise sounded great, and made me think that we are going to get a Fringe/X-Files type show set in the Marvel Universe. I was all on board with that premise, and was eager to see how it would pan out in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As the season trundled along, it feels like somewhere along the way, the writers did not quite know what they wanted to do with the story. A lot of time is spent on Skye and Agent Grant Ward, one is a hacker-turned-wannabe SHIELD agent (maybe?), the other a sterotypical hard edged solo spy type. Many of the filler moments between action scenes seem to revolve around some romantic tension between the two or focus on Skye and why she's joined up with Coulson. These storylines seem to just kill any sort of good moments that the show brings up. Neither character is really that interesting, and I really could care less about Skye and her desire to find her parents.
Instead, the character that the show should be focusing the most around, Coulson, is only give moments to shine here and there. I'd wager that about 75% of the people watching Agents of SHIELD are doing so because they fell in love with Agent Coulson throughout the Marvel movies and were excited to have a show focused around that character. Yet the writers on SHIELD are instead taking two of the most uninteresting characters of the series and forcing some drama down our throats. The interactions between the characters needs to be natural, not created for the purpose of filling up time. Case in point - one of the best episodes of the season, FZZZT!, spent half of the episode dealing with the two Agents Fitz and Simmons. Those moments are full of so much emotion and so much drama, while at the same time felt very natural and helped build a connection with the characters. Then, when that connection is tested at the end of the episode where it looks like one of them may perish, you find yourself on the edge of your seat hoping that it isn't true. I've yet to feel that connection with Agent Ward or Skye.
Make Mine Marvel
For a TV show supposedly based in the Marvel Universe, we've hardly seen that much of it other than an occasional reference. Instead, the show seems to want to create its own continunity, its own villians for the show to operate in, which is completely opposite of what ABC has been selling the show as. This show needs to have better tie-ins with the movie universe that made this show possible. For instance, the episode following the new Thor movie was advertised as this big tie-in with the Thor movie, which got me excited. Yet, the "tie-in" ended up being that the episode started with a few minutes of the agents cleaning up Thor's mess, followed by a new Asgard - related story that had nothing to do with Thor: The Dark World. The story was pretty good, but don't sell me on an episode being a tie-in when the biggest link to the movie is a joke about wishing for a "God of Cleaning up after himself".
Now, ideally it would have been cool to have Thor himself show up in the episode for at least a little bit, but I realize that gets expensive. There's two answers to that: A) This is DISNEY for crying out loud, I think they have the money to make this happen and B) there are other cheaper ways to tie into the movie. Like, could we have Kat Dennings character or the doctor appear in the episode. Since, you know, they *were* in the same area when the movie ended. That wouldn't have been that hard to coordinate. But if you are going to sell this show as being a part of the Marvel Universe then you have to actually link it to that universe - just like how in the movies characters crossed over to other movies.
I Still Have Hope
There is still time for Agents of SHIELD to impress me - we still have half of season 1 to go, in which I'm hoping we get answers to some of the bigger questions that they have been stirring up. Also, there will more than likely be a second season to this show, during which I hope they find their footing and get a better idea of what they want the show to be. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions that I have:
1. Get rid of the Skye character, and/or Agent Ward.
2. Focus more on the premise and/or Agent Coulson.
3. Give us more crossover/tie-ins with the Marvel movies (a LOT more).
4. Change up the writing staff - I figured out most of the big plot twists of the mid season finale halfway through the episode!
What have you guys thought of the first part of Agents of SHIELD? Have I missed anything important/not understood anything? Let me know in the comments below!
The D20 Experience is a column I run on this site where I talk about the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons, both aspects of the game and how they apply to my adventures playing in a regular D&D group. If you are curious as to what D&D is about, I suggest you take a look at this previous article. If you've been around D&D long enough, you've probably heard people talk about "editions" and which edition is their favorite to play. Some people get really heated about which version of the game is the best one. If you want to get a bit of insight into this, and are curious about what this "beta" edition of D&D that is going around, stay tuned for a short story on editions and the thought process I went through when I decided to take a spin in the DM chair.
I had this big post planned out and written up about the various editions of D&D and why people get so fierce about one edition over the other. Well, Evernote decided to erase it before it sync'd back to my account and I lost that post. I was not looking forward to rewriting it, so instead I'm going to summarize it here. For any extra information, I'll point you over to this wikipedia page. There have been 4 editions of Dungeons and Dragons; two by the original company TSR, Inc. and two by Wizards of the Coast when they bought the rights to D&D when TSR went bankrupt. Fourth Edition is the current edition of the game, but many players did not like the changes to the game have stayed with the very popular "3.5 Edition".
There is a 5th edition of the game that is currently being worked on called "D&DNext". Wizards of the Coast has been "beta" testing the game by releasing versions to players for free and encouraging their feedback. They have been incorporating the best aspects of all the other editions and rolling into one improved edition. According to what I've seen, this edition will come out sometime in 2014.
Being a giant D&D nerd, I have been really interested in D&DNext. I have access to all the beta materials, read through all the materials, and have been listening to the official D&D podcast talk about it. Everything that they have been talking about has me really excited to try out the new rules. In our group, our DM has mentioned that if any of us wanted to take the wheel on the adventures for a little bit we were more than welcome to. Given all of this, I started thinking about creating my own D&D story, using it to experiment with the D&DNext rules (and not touch our current campaign).
I've been a DM before, several times in fact. However, usually when I had been running games, I could not get people together often enough to have a regular running campaign. So the adventures that I created were one-time stories, maybe with a possibility of extending into another session if I got the same group of people together. With the regular schedule that my D&D group keeps fairly well, I wanted to experiment with building a "world" and creating an extended story that would last several sessions.
With this in mind, I went about delving into the D&DNext materials to get as knowledgable about the rules as I could. Yet, the more and more I read/heard about the game, the more I began questioning my decision. You see, I would have to teach everyone at the group these new rules, which would make the first couple of sessions rocky to say the least. On top of that, every couple of months they send out revisions of the rules to address concerns/ideas that players had submitted. So, every little bit, I'd have to teach everyone the rules AGAIN. That's when I realized that for now, D&DNext would work best for one off dungeon crawlers instead of a long ongoing story.
So what did I do? That's a story for next time :)
This week, Wizards of the Coast will release the latest core set to the Magic The Gathering Card Game, aptly titled "Magic 2014 core set". To prepare players for this release, a couple of weeks ago, they released the latest edition of "Duels of the Planeswalkers", their video game adaptation of the card game. How does this game stack up to the previous editions? Well, I received a review copy of the Steam version of this game, which I will gladly talk about past the break.
I mentioned that I got the steam version of this game, and I'd hate to start off with a frustration, but I want to quickly get it out of the way. The game is available for several different platforms such as Xbox, Playstation, Steam, iOS, and even Android this time around. As they add more and more platforms, I always struggle with figuring out which edition to buy. Usually I end up picking up the platform I think ill get more playtime on. Last year, I was grateful that I bought the iOS version, as I got so much farther in the game than ever before due to playing small games while on the couch. However, I always seem to get the Steam version as well, and it always annoys the crap out of me that the different platforms do not "sync" with each other, unlocking content and decks with other copies of the game. I would pay much more money buying the game on multiple platforms to play it wherever I want if I knew that I could continue the progress I made on my Xbox or iPad. This is just a small frustration that I have had on the series from the get go, and 2014 does nothing to change it.
Most of the game plays out like the previous editions: you select one of a variety of decks and play through a campaign against other "Planeswalkers". As you progress, other game types unlock, such as harder versions of the people you have beaten previously. Not only that, you can modify these decks with cards that you get from winning in the campaign; and even use these decks against your friends in the Multiplayer mode. The other games did a fabulous job of all of this and Magic 2014 carries on the torch in these regards extremely well.
For this iteration though, one of the big draws is that of the "Sealed Deck" mode. In this mode, you are given 6 "booster packs" filled with various cards and are tasked with creating your own custom 40-card deck. You then can use this in a similar campaign mode, which can earn you further booster packs, or against your friends. It is in this mode that this game shines over the previous versions, as a common complaint against the Duel of the Planeswalkers games was that deck customization was very much downplayed. This version has an entire game mode designed to appeal to those who want to build their own deck from the ground up. If you have no idea how to do that, the game can either auto-build you a deck with the cards available, or provide hints to you as you go along in the building process.
I enjoyed the previous iterations of Duels of the Planeswalkers, and I REALLY like this new version. One of my weaknesses in Magic (the physical version) is that I don't do a very good job of building my own decks. Magic 2014 shined a bright light on this fact when I tried out the new Sealed Deck mode myself. I did a horrible job at it. I went through all the cards, tried to come up with a theme to build my deck around, and managed to put together some cards that really made me feel confident in it. I had an idea that it might not go so smoothly, but I thought the good cards I put in would balance out the risky ones. Boy what I wrong. The first game I played I was ripped a new one, and I'm not even playing on the highest difficulty. The second game started off equally as horrible to the point where I gave up knowing how the game was going to play out. It might sound like this would affect my opinion of the game, but actually I am really glad this feature is available. Previously, I'd have to wait until a tournament to test my deck building skills and see how I'm improved. Now I have an easy environment for me to experiment with, adjusting and perfecting my deck building skills which should help me out in the physical game. Not only that, but I can access this anytime I have some spare time to sit down in front of the computer, giving me lots of potential practice time.
So if you have any interest in Magic at all; from having played the game in the past, currently playing it, or have been curious as to what this game is about, I highly suggest that you pick up this game. I'm sure that you will have lots of fun and develop a new love for the card game.